Return engagement

Greetings, all. (And by all I mean the two people responsible for maintaining this site and those of you who stumbled here by accident.) It has been quite a while since my last entry.

After years of writing about the employer brand and its myriad healing powers, I needed some time to recharge. Not having the resolve of an ascetic, or the antipathy of a hermit, I simply walked away from my blogging responsibilities and lived out most of 2010 in my shed. There amidst the garden tools, children’s bicycles, and occasional visit from a family of rodents, I focused on fulfilling Einstein’s dream of a theory of everything – a theory that ties all the laws of physics – gravity, electro-magnetism, and quantum mechanics into an elegant, easy-to-understand explanation of everything that transpires in the universe.

After manufacturing a super-collider out of PVC pipe, an old cassette player, and a paintball gun, I was able to recreate the moment when the universe sprang into existence. This moment of elation was briefly interrupted by the town building inspector, who, while having no problem with the super-collider itself, did take issue with the plasma screen television I had hooked up to my neighbor’s cable feed. One building permit and a few half-hearted apologies later, I went back to my super-colider, through which I discovered several new sub-atomic particles including one that made parking tickets go away. I was all set to publish my theory of everything when I realized there were two phenomena I could not account for – the existence of reality television and Parsippany, New Jersey.

Daunted, deterred, but not humbled, I returned to terra cognito to take up a more accessible, yet still mildly esoteric quest – to bring new conversation and insight to the topic of the employer brand, a topic mired in seemingly endless rehashed statements of the obvious.

How bold, you say? What unbridled hubris? Perhaps and perhaps not. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.  Some say yes and some say no. Okay, just hold off a bit before rushing to judgment. Especially since the first point of discussion will focus on a little something known as the hedonic treadmill.

The term hedonic treadmill first appeared in the 1971 article “Hedonic Relativism and Planning the Good Society,” by Brickman and Campbell. It refers to the fact that even though outside forces are constantly changing our lives and our life goals, happiness is a relatively constant state. In other words, our situations may get better or worse, but we will usually report about the same levels of happiness or sadness.

Why bring up some obscure theory from a time when the airwaves were ruled by Laugh-in and FM radio? Because when it comes to employee retention, attrition, engagement, satisfaction, attraction, and anything else related to the employment experience, the hedonic treadmill is our theory of everything. It explains why so many employees leave an organization after three to five years of tenure, why long-tenured employees often join the “stay and quit” club, why the elation of year one may become the despondency of year ten, and conversely, why the despondency of year ten may be dissipated by the elation of year one.

And understanding how this happens enables us to understand what we should do as employer brand managers. But more on that later. Right now, I have a shed to clean out.


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Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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